Two hours. That’s how long it took me to seek professional help Wednesday morning when my iPhone mysteriously stopped working during a routine operating system update.
It didn’t seem like a particularly difficult problem to solve. The phone just needed to be connected it to an iTunes account so that it could be updated or restored. I should have been able to troubleshoot it myself, but for some reason, my laptop was being equally disagreeable. While the phone insisted on being connected, the computer demanded that it be ejected. Round and round we went until I finally gave up and walked down the street to a mobile repair shop.
“Normally, we can fix a bad OS update,” the clerk said. “Come back in an hour.”
I didn’t believe him. First of all, he was wearing a baseball hat that looked like a Stormtrooper helmet, which made it difficult to trust his judgment. And second, because experience has taught me that any time a statement is prefaced with the word “normally,” there’s an exception to the rule and I’m usually it.
I used the next 60 minutes wisely – which is to say that I went back to my hotel, dug my spare smartphone out of the bottom of my suitcase and inserted a freebie New Zealand SIM card that I found in a brochure at the airport.
When I returned to the shop, the tech guy grimaced at me.
“Not good,” he said. “I can’t update or restore it. It’s giving me Error No. 9.”
I raised my eyebrows. “What’s that?”
“That’s the thing,” he said. “I’ve never seen that message before.”
“Of course,” I said. I mean, who’s really surprised?
He turned his computer monitor towards me and showed me a list of error messages on the Apple support site. “As you can see,” he explained. “Error No. 9 isn’t even an option.”
I couldn’t help but laugh. “So what?” I asked. “That’s it?”
“You can take it to an Apple specialist,” he suggested. ‘They might know what it means.”
Then, because I’m in New Zealand and the people here are nothing if not unbelievably helpful, he told me where the nearest shop was and how to get there.
When I stepped up to my second help desk of the day, I was even less optimistic.
“I was trying to update this,” I said as I slid the broken phone across the counter. “But it failed and the last person I took it to said it was giving him Error No. 9.
“Error No. 9?” the clerk repeated.
“Error No. 9,” I insisted.
“I’ve never heard of that,” he mused.
“Well that makes two of us,” I shot back. Three, technically.
I watched as this technician repeated the same steps as the Stormtrooper. While he worked, I connected my spare Samsung phone to their guest WiFi and attempted to install my email, download a few apps and add a credit card to my account. I was already trying to acclimate to a life without an iPhone.
“I have bad news,” the clerk announced 30 minutes later. “This phone is completely shot. And it’s not under warranty. Apple might make an exception and replace it anyway, but you’d have to take it to one of their stores and we don’t have one here.”
I sat back down in their waiting room and considered my options. The perfectly sensible thing to do would have been to use the spare phone. It was already bought and paid for and it would serve the basic purpose of making calls, checking email, taking photos and ordering Ubers.
And yet somehow I convinced myself that it wasn’t good enough. Because I hated the phone. I hated the design. I hated the display. I hated that I couldn’t figure out how to stop making every keystroke sound like a drip of water. I got the idea that ditching my US cell phone plan and buying an unlocked iPhone that I could use in any country at local rates would save me money in the long run.
“I know this sounds crazy, but I’ll get a new one,” I said as I put the Samsung phone on the counter. “Because I just can’t with this thing.”
The clerk reacted as though I had laid a pipe bomb at his feet.
“What is that?!” he asked. “Is it a Galaxy 7?!”
It was a good question. Was this the dreaded Galaxy Note 7? The one prone to sudden combustion on airplanes? Because, if so, I’ve been inadvertently carrying it on countless flights for the past several months and also doing a terrific amount of lying about it to airport gate attendants.
The clerk carefully turned the phone over and sighed in relief. “It’s not,” he said.
And thank God for that. Because a non-functioning iPhone is annoying, but an exploding one would be something to really get upset about.
From there, things took yet another left turn. Because despite being an Apple retailer, the only phone this store had in stock was somewhere north of NZ $1500. And that was far too much to pay in the short-term, even if the long-term savings were possible.
“Look,” the clerk said, lowering his voice. “I shouldn’t tell you this, but you can get one cheaper down the street. As long as you come back and buy a case for it here, I’ll help you set it up.”
When I returned a few moments later with a new phone tucked into my bag, he kept his word. For his trouble, I bought a case, a screen protector and a replacement sleeve for my laptop since I broke the zipper on it when I dropped it in a hotel in Sydney two weeks prior.
Afterwards, as I sat in the shop’s waiting room adding my email accounts and syncing what I could of my contacts, the clerk returned with a pair of scissors and cut the tags off my new laptop case. “I’ll just save you the trouble,” he said as he snipped.
Because apparently that’s who I’ve become: A person who looks like she shouldn’t handle sharp objects.
I figured the broken iPhone would have been the most disappointing thing to happen that day. But as it turns out, it was only the beginning – because my New Zealand Wednesday was a U.S. Tuesday. And not just any Tuesday – Election Tuesday.
I don’t really care to use my blog to make political statements – at least not when there are so many other important issues to explore, like the merits of Tindering abroad and interesting things I’ve slipped on lately. But today I feel the need to make an exception.
Here it is: Our system is broken. Sure, Mr. Trump has his base of diehard supporters and they’re truly happy with his win – I won’t deny any of them their moment of victory. After all, tolerance goes both ways.
But I believe that the majority of people who voted for him did so simply because they had no better option. This is what happens when Americans are forced between a racist liar and a regular liar. We hit our own version of Error No. 9.
Perhaps it’s childish and counter-productive – not to mention privileged – to announce my plan to ride out the next four years by skipping off to places like Vancouver or Stockholm for a few months at a time. But I don’t feel like I have much choice left. There’s no place back home for a Nasty Woman like me.
See you in 2020, everyone.
Personal note: I no longer have my New York cell phone number. If you’ve been trying to text or call, please send me an email instead.